At last week's PCMA Exhibit Managers Think Tank, Gregg Talley, FASAE, CAE, President & CEO, Talley Management Group, and a diverse group of show organizers aimed to answer a question that's challenging the entire industry: how do we continue to attract exhibitors when overall attendance is down?
There's no simple solution. However, the Think Tank uncovered one key piece of the puzzle. Selling your booth space starts with selling exhibitors on the new reality of trade show expectations. Here are three ways you can continue to demonstrate your show's value in the new era of exhibiting.
1) Sales Success Doesn't Happen Overnight
It's important to educate your exhibitors on the fact that they may not see an immediate translation from leads to purchase orders. However, that shouldn't downgrade the importance of reserving a booth to showcase products and make connections.
"The show floor is about building relationships," one attendee said. "It's about being able to see, touch and experience the products, so that you can return with an understanding of what you should buy."
While your exhibitors recognize the value of networking, be sure to promote your show as a place where they can build brand awareness and make contacts. Those contacts will eventually lead to a return on their investment, but patience is key.
2) Be a Seller and a Teacher
Throughout the morning discussion, Think Tank participants focused on the continuing shift from Exhibit Hall to Educational Space. Many attendees are on-site to enroll in educational sessions and earn CEUs. Your exhibitors have a unique opportunity to help contribute to that knowledge bank.
As you communicate the value of exhibiting at your show, it's important to show exhibitors that their presence and active participation is crucial to help potential customers understand how to use their product and why it's vital to their organization.
3) Size is Overrated
While you may not be able to advertise that your show will attract 5,000 attendees, show your exhibitors that the attendees that will be there are the buyer prospects they're hoping to reach. It's the age-old quantity vs. quality debate, and it's an essential piece of attracting exhibitors in today's trade show climate.
"Even if you have fewer attendees, do your research to understand who they are and what their buying power is," Talley said.
Consider conducting surveys of your attendees to better understand their influence in the purchasing process at their organizations. With concrete numbers, you'll be able to show your exhibitors that they'll be having conversations that truly matter with the decision makers and/or influencers that can pull the trigger on buying new products and services.
Make Them Marketers
In addition to adjusting the expectations of your exhibitors, you may also need to politely tell them to adjust their marketing methods.
"No one can have the 'if you build it, they will come' mentality," one participant said.
Being there with a staffed booth simply isn't enough. Think Tank participants discussed the need to educate exhibitors on the importance of using new technology to engage attendees before they ever set foot on-site.
While the evolving rules of exhibiting continue to impact meetings, all participants agreed that if exhibitors are willing invest in an effective marketing campaign, they can take a big step toward increasing traffic, increasing ROI and ultimately, shattering those new expectations.
Be sure to check back next week for continuing coverage on how to design an experience that creates more opportunities for your exhibitors.